Three Reaches 4.5m 4G Users, Says O2 Merger Will Help It Grow

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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More than half of Three customers are using 4G, consuming 4.6GB a month as coverage reaches 63 percent

Three now has 4.5 million active 4G customers – just over half of its 8.8 million total active users – and plans to improve indoor and rural coverage with Voice over LTE (VoLTE) and low frequency 800MHz as well as urban capacity with more 1800MHz bandwidth this autumn.

The company added 391,000 new customers during the first half of 2015, attributing the growth to strong network performance and offers like no additional roaming charges in 18 countries through Feel at Home and VoWi-Fi through the Three InTouch application.

On average, each customer uses 4.56GB of mobile data a month, while two million Feel at Home users have ‘saved’ a combined £1.3 billion over the past two years and 1.2 million use Three in Touch.

Network update

Three Store 1Revenues rose by 10 percent to £1.071 billion over the six month period, with Three viewing this as justification for its strategy of prioritising customer satisfaction.

“Our approach is simple: listen to what customers want so they stay with us longer and encourage others to join,” explained Three chief financial officer Richard Woodward.

“Our performance in the first half has been built on the strength of our network and the plans and benefits we provide. We passionately believe that financial success starts and ends with providing the best possible customer experience and fixing industry issues like unfair roaming charges.

“This is our absolute focus and we are seeing the results with customer satisfaction consistently improving, more people joining us and existing customers staying longer and spending more.”

Three was the last operator to offer 4G and was the only provider not to charge an additional fee for LTE. RootMetrics has rated Three as the second best overall network in the UK, while the operator has now confirmed 4G coverage stands at 63 percent of the UK population.

All four major operators have committed to invest a combined £5 billion in achieving 90 percent geographic coverage by 2017. Three told TechWeekEurope the deployment of 800MHz airwaves will help achieve this goal.

Three-O2 merger

Parent company Hutchison Whampoa is in the process of acquiring O2 from Telefronica, a process that is set to be formally referred to the European Commission (EC) and a decision is expected in the second quarter of 2015.

Woodward was guarded about the process, but reiterated Hutchison’s belief that the merged business would be “significantly stronger” without harming competition thanks to economies of scale.

“For us, our immediate focus will be to take the best of both businesses,” he said, adding the proposed new network, which would be the UK’s largest by customer number, would offer more network capacity and faster speeds.

However Woodward added Three couldn’t wait until approval was given to improve its network. He promised Three would look to add more countries to Feel at Home and ask customers to identify other areas to prioritise. For example, the company is working to introduce native VoWi-Fi rather than force users to open an application.

Woodward did though suggest the proposed auction of 2.3GHz spectrum, formerly used by the Ministry of Defence, should be delayed unitl decisions had been made on three-O2 merger and the proposed acquisition of EE by BT.

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